26 February 2007

Flag Day Celebration at the Maddox Academy

On Friday I had the privilege of going to an annual celebration of the Mexican Flag at the Maddox Academy, a very rich, prestigious catholic school for girls between preschool and high school ages. The girls were dressed very smartly in their school uniforms, overcoats and white gloves and the different classes organized to do their hair a certain way (Jimena, Toño's sister and her class put their hair in a pony and braided the tail into many tiny braids)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting (left to right: Daniela, Fernanda, Jimena)

We arrived to the school at 7:30, an ungodly hour that I have been very lucky to not have to experience in many months, the sun hadn't even hit the school campus yet. We had a seat and Jimena ran off to her classroom. We sat, waited and watched girls run around for an hour and a half before the ceremony actually started. Finally and suddenly every door in the school opened at the same time and girls began to pour out in straight, sharp lines.

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They marched in time with the military drummers, their arms and legs were in exact sync.

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Little blue girls stepped in time for 15 minutes, they came from everywhere, they filled the stairs marching down in the same time.

When they came to corners the "sergeant" yelled YA, the whole row marched around the corner. When they passed the president and the state mayor, the "sergeant" yelled VISTA and the whole row turned their head simultaneously to look at the visitors and in passing, they snapped their head forward. When one class was done marching, they kept moving to the sound, kicking their left leg out and slightly lifting the right, a stationary march.

The governor was given the honors of raising the flag along side the girls who are to graduate this year. These last year students were crying toward the end of their last march.

After the raising of the flag, the school sang the National Anthem, The State Anthem, the flag song and a song in English that was incredibly hard to understand due to hundreds of girls singing with thick accents. For the first time, they didn't sing God Save the Queen (it's a British school).

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The entire assembly had me stupefied. My breath was stuck in my chest, unable to escape while my heart pounded as if I had just run 10 miles. I didn't know what to think and when Toño's mom asked me if I taught it was pretty I told her it was a little weird for me. We don't even use uniforms in our schools (public schools, obviously) and the only time I've ever seen marching and complete obedience and conformity was when I went to see the Marines graduate in San Diego.

Of course, these things aren't wrong or bad but the horrifying thing about the ceremony was that girls were getting dizzy and being taken out of formation, others were fainting and being carried out. They were all taken into a room behind the bleachers, given fruit and juice and sent back out several minutes later. A few girls were standing too far from the bleachers and were taken to classrooms. One girl began convulsing. These girls are between 7 and 18 years old. The younger ones are completely unable to stand in the blazing sun (I'd guess it's been in the low to mid 90s for the last several weeks) for hours in the middle of the day. I'm sure many of them hadn't eaten breakfast yet and none had pockets to keep candies or small fruits in case of emergency.

Poor little girls.

After the ceremony we got together with Jimena's friends and went to breakfast. Delightful little girls.

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I'm not sure I could handle another one of those.

To see more videos click my youtube link to the right

20 February 2007

Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca: A camp in Protest

La APPO is a recently formed political organization that claims to breed social resistance to neoliberalism and authoritarianism. They fight for the "rescue/recovery" (the exact sentence reads "La resistencia social crece por muchos rincones del país en contra del neoliberalismo, el autoritarismo y el rescate de la democracia popular". The word rescate is translated to rescue and/or recovery) of democracy. Considering that the PRI was in power for 70 years (a time often referred to as The Perfect Dictatorship because elections were openly and "freely" held every 6 years, PRI always won and no electoral fraud could ever be concretely proven due to the party's extensive authoritarian control) before Fox was elected in 2000 under PAN. It seems hard to believe that APPO believes there is anything to recover democracy from.

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This group has marched from Oaxaca to Mexico city (in order to see video of this march, click Galeria Multimedia and then click the video called Marcha Caravana) to camp out in Mexico City. That was in July; today the camp is about half the original size, and the people who remain consist mostly of street vendors and professors who give information for a small donation (we bought a copy of the caravan march for 20 pesos). We took with us a copy of their National Pact for the Popular Sovereignty and the Vigilance of the Constitution and of course armed ourselves with several questions regarding it.

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First we were interested to know what they thought Mexico's economic status would be without neoliberalism. To this the professor inconcretely suggested that Mexico could belong to the First World had they no dependencies on the international community. I'm not sure how I feel about this statement and so I won't comment further.

Many leftists in this country are convinced that they are still living under an authoritarian regime. At home we might call these people extremists because let's face it, Democrats are very conservative in every country but the US. Many from the PRD (the extreme leftist party) consider the new government (PAN) to be the same government that's governed for over 70 years so naturally we asked what APPO's definition of authoritarianism is. The answer was predictable.

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It seemed important to know where APPO vendors buy their raw products in order to make purses, scarves, bracelets etc. We often forget that even those groups that are in stark moral contrast with neoliberalism have no true, simple alternative. These vendors must buy their good from large, often international companies; their food products come from Walmart, not the Farmer's Market. So it seems to me quite naive to say that neoliberalism is murdering any economy. Even the street markets sell clothing that bare the name of the company (often times stolen or second-hand....but either way, someone bought it and by buying it again, and you have and privilege of paying to advertise for the company) you believe is blurring your clear path to economic sovereignty.

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The responses we received were very rehearsed and political. This is not to say that I don't believe much of what I have read and heard about APPO or neoliberalism or economic sovereignty but rather to say that something new needs to be done to combat it. My research is not going to change the fact that Mexico houses 10 of the world's riches people and many, many million more of the world's poorest. We need to first learn the rules of the game before we can play it because no professor in the APPO camp will convince the government to change their economic strategy, cut ties with the world and please, for God's sake stop stealing money from the citizenry. No mega march or caravan march will change the minds of the people who matter, those in office. Something new and effective needs to be developed. A completely new government needs to be in place, a new police force, we need to breed new ideas so that our children can begin to construct clear-minded alternatives. Right now, no one is clear of mind.

17 February 2007

How to use a JERGA for Dumbies

A JERGA is a sort of heavy cotton towel that may or may not have a small hole in the center and is used as a mop. The JERGA can be bought at any market place for only a few pesos. It is used in conjunction with a JALADOR which is basically a very long squeegee.

First, one concocts a mixture of floor cleaner (I use lemon scent because the others are WEIRD!) and water in a bucket.

1. Place the JERGA in the bucket of cleaner
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2. Pull the JERGA from the bucket and squeeze out extra water
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3. grab the JALADOR in one hand and the JERGA in the other
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4. Place the JERGA (which has a hole big enough for the pole in the center) on the JALADOR
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5. mop.
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It's that simple kids. I usually clean the bucket junk after mopping every room, but that's only because I'm neurotic that way. Many times people place the Jerga at the doorway when not in use as a sort of mat....that's optional.

09 February 2007

Just for fun: Random things from Mexico City


This video is kinda bad, it was taken at night but it's something I just had to share. I've been here almost a month and still I laugh everytime we see them...The green man that tells you to walk actually moves here!:


I bought an In Style magazine yesterday....just because it's an In Style, In Spanish.

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And last, but most definately not least:

There is a group of 20-somethings that stand in front of the Palace of Fine Arts giving out free hugs. The first time I saw it, I almost cried mostly because it reminds me so much of my friends. This is something Stephanie and I would have done when we were younger, I'm sure. Actually, to be completely honest, I cried when I watched this video (it's not mine)

08 February 2007

An attempt to win back pride and land...theoretically

In the pre-show for the game yesterday (soccer, Mexico vs. USA), a cyclical message seemed to create somewhat of a theme: The only advantage that Mexico has over the US is soccer. The only thing Mexico can do to win back stolen pride, liberty and land is play soccer; even if the prize is intangible and temporary. The game was long and goalless most of the time. Neither team was playing particularly well. The US scored first, which of course kicked Mexico into overtime. They began to play a little stronger but continuously made failed attempt after failed attempt at a goal. Finally, 30 seconds from game end, the US scored again.

But to be honest, the game isn't the point. The point is what seems to me to be an extreme inferiority complex on the behalf of Mexico. One reporter talked about the fact that the game is technically being played in Mexico. Let's not forget please that Arizona, California, Texas and several other states were at one time Mexican territory and somehow, winning this game (and every other games of course) might make up for that fact.

I think this is all I have to say about this, but please, I'm sure there are several comments about this. And remember, this is just my preliminary observation....It could be convoluted and/or incorrect.

05 February 2007

new arrivals

So we finally got our pet today only we were convinced to take two instead of one...so now we have two baby cats.

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One is named Remedios and the other Violeta. We're not sure which is which yet, though. Remedios is taken from an incredible Gabriel Garcia Marquez character in the book 100 Years of Solitude. Violeta is after the amazing singer, Violeta Parra who died today in 1967.

The one with the brown spots is the more adventurous and curious while the other is a cry-baby; she screams bloody murder if you pick her up or separate her from her sister.

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Left, Remedios. Right, Violeta

03 February 2007

January 31, 2007

Flashback: A few weeks ago I wrote about the price increase of corn. I also falsely claimed that nothing was being done about it. On January 31 there was a rather huge march from El Angel de la Independencia to the Zócalo in supposed protest of this economic fluctuation....as if the Mexican government could possibly do anything to change the international market. What it turned into was a leftist parade and a cry to see Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The march was beautiful; all Mexican marches are.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting It started with this old woman carrying a basket of corn in traditional garb. The protest was a collaboration of several syndicates throughout the country. Many of them genuine campesinos with their wives and children along side. Several were of the middle class. Others the Communist party (a group of idealistic twenty-somethings searching for something they can't even wrap their minds around). Behind the old woman was one syndicate that enclosed itself in a corral made of rope, most of them carrying a flag bearing the symbol of their union.

As we continued to walk, we came across the Sheraton hotel which was blocked off completely by riot police. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting An utterly intense site in a foreign country. Strangely, after passing these police we saw others guarding several other buildings...all of them without guns. Some carried night sticks, but only a few.

Continuing on, we noticed that several stores were closed; the majority of them American. 7/11 Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting, McDonalds, KFC etc. Mexican shops were open, even jewelry stores.

We got to the Zócalo early so there weren't many people but luckily we were able to get on the Press platform, allowing us to take some pretty awesome pictures. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
(to see more, click here)

Quickly the crowd stopped listening to the organizers speak and began to shout for Obrador. They called "Presidente" and "Es un honor estar con Obrador" (It's an honor to be with Obrador). The crowd truly believe that AMLO (Obrador) is their legitimate President ever since he declared himself President a while back. One woman wore earrings in the shape of the "president", several carried posters with his face beaming, many sold stickers and patches.
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At the end of the speeches, the organizers announced that AMLO would speak on the side stage. This announcement was made around 6:00. Hundreds of people crowded the stage chanting and singing and telling jokes against the federal government. An hour and a half later, Obrador showed up with his entourage. The whole crowd was vigilantly awaiting, still chanting, and flashing AMLO's signature peace sign (for Victory). Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

His speech was typical of populist leaders. Giving the people what they want; solutions that have no realistic possibility of being carried out. Never in my life have I blindly trusted a public figure as much as these people. At home, I would never wait over an hour to see a politician speak. These people are so desperate for change. They are in so much need for improvement that they allow themselves to be brainwashed by the first new, progressive face that tells them he can make everything better. He can't, he's the absolute opposite of a prudent economist; the perfect example of a modern populist. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Something that struck me hard (aside from the cult following) was a sign that a little girl sitting on top of her father's shoulders held. The sign read: Now my father doesn't make enough to buy even tortillas. I almost cried. Another sign read "Sin Maiz, no hay Pais": without corn, there is no country. There are many people who believe that the founding of the country is centered around the first corn ever grown here. The exact date isn't known, but it's believed to be somewhere around 3000 BC.
"(This) date has more meaning, because it represents the domestication of the wild grass that later became corn...Three thousand BC also serves as a better date of birth because of the nature of corn, which is the only grain that cannot survive without the aid of a human being, because the husk does not open and the seed does not fall from the ear....Corn transformed society, bringing about what was to become one of the world's original civilizations. Mexico was born" (Shorris, Earl. The Life and Times of Mexico.)